Humans are mostly made of water, which is why when we drink the element, good things happen — like regulating our temperature, keeping our muscles and joints spry, and of course, helping to filter out the toxins in our body we ingest all day.
That's why we like to think of the water we drink as the purest substance we put in our bodies. While that may be true, according to science, the water we drink is not exactly as pure as we'd hope.
The Trace Elements Hidden in Your Glass of Water
Last year, Popular Science released an interactive graphic about what trace elements are lurking in an average glass of tap water, and it's been making the rounds on Twitter (you'll see why exactly, in a moment).
Read more: What's in a Glass of Water?
As you may already know, the tap water we use is locally sourced from rivers, lakes, aquifers (groundwater), and the ocean, and must first be filtered to be drinkable. At your local filtration plant, an average of three filtering processes turns dirty water into the clean water that you use to cook your pasta, brew your coffee, and wash your face.
So Here's What's in That Creepy Glass of "Water"
Some of the more jarring highlights include pharmaceuticals, because as Popular Science states, "Everything from amoxicillin to Zyrtec makes its way, via your pee, into the rivers and lakes that supply our water." Since "pharmaceuticals only contaminate surface water at extremely low levels," it's implied that there is no need to worry, which I'm sure is completely reassuring to you. (Oh, and if you're thinking of running to grab a Deer Park or a Poland Spring instead, I regret to inform you that it's in most bottled water, too.)
The next trace item to note is salt, which naturally occurs in water, and seems to not be so bad, until Popular Science notes that "a high concentration of sodium- or magnesium-sulfate salts" resulting from faulty or poor filtration "might have a ... laxative effect." (I'm so sorry.)
Of the more publicized trace elements in the United States' tap water, lead has been a cause for growing concern across the country, as "old, corroded metal pipelines can deposit [the] potent neurotoxin into drinking water, as they did in Flint, Michigan. Children who ingest lead can develop permanent learning disabilities."
Still, other trace elements in our tap water make more sense, like copper, "which leaches from old pipes" but unlike lead, is safe for humans in levels under 1.3 milligrams per liter of water.
Another trace element which shouldn't cause any concern — well, as much as the other ones — is chlorine, which water-treatment facilities add as a disinfectant, and is safe at low levels.
So, What Are We Supposed to Do?
So should we all pack up our things and move to the most remote island we can find? No, because for one that's a silly idea, and two, it wouldn't matter anyway, since all the water in the world has already been contaminated by land pollution.
Although it may be hard at this very moment, it's possible to look on the bright side: In addition to geniuses around the world coming up with solutions to the world's water issues, smart folks are also innovating new water filtration techniques every day to make sure that the glass of water from your faucet really is truly, unconcernedly pure.
This post originally ran on Kitchn. See it there: This Creepy Illustration of a Glass of Water Will Haunt You